A variety of emotions create nerves on the course. Excitement, fear, anticipation, and embarrassment can all raise our heart rate and make us question golf’s supposed reputation as a relaxing activity.
With that, we present our ranking of the 20 most nerve-wracking moments in golf. You don’t need to be playing on TV for millions of dollars to get your hands sweaty on an important shot.
Granted, categorizing an emotional response is inherently subjective, but this writer has been through each of these situations, and we think you have too. So read on to see if we got it right, or if your golf anxiety has been taken away by something else.
20. Looking into your bag and not seeing the wedge you left behind two holes before
Reality begins: Either take the golfer’s walk of shame to retrieve your lost club, or wait until after the round to see if the Good Samaritan picked it up.
19. Seeing a group looking for a ball where you just picked up a brand new Pro V1
It turns out, that I was Too good to be true, and now you’re faced with an ethical dilemma. Do you confess your crime or keep the $5 ball that was thrown just off the fairway?
18. A three-foot putt on the first green in competition
What would normally be a question-and-miss situation is now suddenly a palm-shake test to see if you really have what it takes to play the competition.
17. First tee shot after an awesome warm-up
right, left, clip, thin. There’s no harm in the range, but when you have to take the shaky swing to the right track, the anxiety begins.
16. When you’re the last to put six feet in a stampede
If you want any chance of pro-store credit on your company outing, you can’t afford to miss six feet in your four-person scramble. You are the last line of defense.
15. See the water on this side of the hole
Sure, many of us fight a two-way error, but we all have that one direction that we’re afraid of seeing problems with.
14. Opening tee on a bucket list course
old session. pebble. Bandon Dunes. Knowing that you may only have one chance to play these Sacred Paths puts some extra nerves on the first starting point.
13. Get a three-footer to avoid a four-hit
You are angry, but you can live with the anger. It’s the shame and embarrassment you desperately need to avoid with this knee mallet. Three strikes happen. Four putts shake up your identity as a competent golfer.
12. Playing off the wrong track while following another group
Play it cool or admit you’re sliced at 60 yards, right? Either way, you’re in for another group pit, and yes, they’ll be watching eagerly as you follow along Fore, right! tee ball.
11. Down to the last golf ball
Another case of anger and shame. Yes, you’re angry because you lost six balls in 10 holes, but you risk shame if you hook the last ball and have to turn to your partners for relief.
10. Not finding your ball on the rough field in the match
You’re sure the ball was just off the fairway, but it has settled down and the clock is ticking. In competition, there is no timeout if you can’t find it.
9. The shot hit the bunker after the last bullet had been fired
You’ve just recovered from the embarrassment of walking 40 yards up the green to find your weak ball and now, after a few holes, you’re back on the sand.
8. Recycling after one hit is out of bounds
A bad shot can be an anomaly. two? This is user error. Whether a large number becomes a large number depends on this swing.
7. Getting into a game of five feet for your first eagle
You never know when you’ll get that chance again, and your trembling hands seem to know that too.
6. Climb into a group you accidentally run into
You made a mistake, and you’re about to find out the price you’ll pay. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a “Don’t worry, we missed out!” message. But you might easily find yourself apologizing profusely to an unforgiving quartet.
5. The next shot after the shank
Stems come in one of two forms: the rare one-off kind or the patterned kind that come and go. Standing on the next shot, you’re about to find out which one you’re dealing with.
4. Play by group
You know you need to quickly get out of the way, and you need to do it with four curious onlookers. Heart racing stuff.
3. Stand on the first tee in a competitive round
Sure, it’s a little bland, but anyone who’s ever flicked a scorecard in their back pocket knows the mix of expectation, fear, and excitement that creates that anxiety.
2. Play the 18th hole when you are about to shoot a career low
You are about to break through the barrier that has held your mind in golf for so long. Your sense of satisfaction as a golfer depends on these crucial 15 minutes as you try to finish your round.
1. Hit the opening tee with a crowd looking on… when you might not have warmed up
This gets first place for several reasons. You don’t hit any balls in range, so you have no idea what to expect. Most importantly, your image around the club will be irrationally affected by how successful (or weak) you are. Nothing fuels conversations among your drunken peers like a blistering hook. Or worse, a planned drive might spark controversy over the condition of your sandbox.